During a telephone interview last week, with his 4,000th career victory on the horizon, trainer Gerald Bennett reflected on the personal side of chasing a milestone only 13 other North American conditioners have achieved.
“I was telling them about a lot of my experiences, that I’ve claimed a lot of horses over the years,” Bennett said in the winner’s circle late this afternoon, “but over the whole long run, my best claim was Mary.”
Gerald Bennett, wife Mary and assistant Juan Cacho Castro celebrate No. 4,000
For the last 35 years, wife Mary Bennett, also a trainer, has shared the major victories and the disappointments, the unexpected scores and the heartbreaks. The landmark victory by 8-year-old Florida-bred D’craziness in today’s ninth race, while notable, seemed to blend into a career that shows no signs of slowing as the 77-year-old Bennett takes aim at a seventh consecutive Oldsmar training crown.
“That is a lot of races, and a lot of dedication that went into it,” said jockey Antonio Gallardo, who rode 6-5 favorite D’craziness to a 2-length victory on the turf from Fly Fly Away for Bennett and owner Averill Racing.
“He deserves it so much. You see him working hard all the time, trailering the horses – he goes everywhere, and he’s here every day. I’m just really excited to win No. 4,000 for him,” Gallardo said.
Bennett notched career victory No. 3,999 in today’s second race with Little Miss Sassy, a 2-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by his Winning Stables outfit in partnership with Majestic Racing Stable. Roberto Alvarado, Jr., was the jockey. Little Miss Sassy was claimed from the race for $25,000 by trainer Jose H. Delgado for new owner Carole Star Stables.
Besides being No. 14 on the all-time training list, Bennett is 11th among active trainers. “When you really stop and think about it for a minute, it’s a big accomplishment,” Bennett said. “It’s something most people haven’t done. It’s just hard work, keep getting up. … now, try for 5(000),” he said with an impish grin.
Bennett stressed the importance of detail and teamwork in getting to 4,000. “You never know when the next one is going to come, and you have to work hard and see how all the horses are doing every morning. There is always something going on with one horse here or there, and if you miss it, you can lessen a horse’s career,” he said.
“I just appreciate all the people who work for us, ‘Carlos’ (assistant trainer Juan Cacho Castro), and all of the barn help. They are all part of the team that got us here, and it’s a great job by everybody getting up early and keeping their noses to the grindstone.”
Around the oval. Two $100,000 stakes races for Florida-breds and the return of Corgi racing promise high-spirited excitement Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.
The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association joins Tampa Bay Downs in staging the FTBOA City of Ocala Florida Sire Stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward and the FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes for colts and geldings 3-and-up. Both races will be contested at a distance of 7 furlongs on the main track.
The FTBOA events are restricted to horses that are FTBOA-registered and sired by an FTBOA-registered Florida stallion, having paid all FSS eligibility fees.
First post time Saturday is 12:10 p.m.
Following Saturday’s card, at about 5:30 p.m., the Corgis will grab the spotlight, with nine heats of eight dogs each competing for a berth in the final. The Corgi racing will be conducted under the lights. Admission to this event is free of charge. There will also be a Senior Division race before the final.
The Corgi races are organized by the Tampa Bay Corgi Meetup Group and benefit Sunshine Corgi Rescue, a group that seeks to find “forever” homes for the lovable canines.
This is the fourth year of the event, which was cancelled last year because of COVID-19. There is no pari-mutuel wagering on the Corgi races.
Hector R. Diaz, Jr., rode back-to-back winners on today’s card. Diaz won the third race on Hello Rosie Say, a 3-year-old filly owned by Ivan Luis Martinez and trained by Antonio Machado. Diaz added the fourth race with East Wing, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Lambholm Stable, Ella Felcher and Preferred Pals Stable and trained by Roy Lerman.
Dana’s Beauty, a 3-year-old filly owned by T-N-T Equine Holdings and trained by Randall R. Russell, won today’s featured fifth race, a $29,000 allowance/optional claiming event for fillies and mares at a distance of 5 furlongs on the turf course. The race honored the memory of late Hillsborough County Master Deputy Mark Darst.
Dana’s Beauty sped the distance in 56.31 seconds, rallying under Gallardo to post a half-length victory over Bramble Bay.
Thoroughbred racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:40 p.m. Tampa Bay Downs currently races on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule, with a special Thursday, Dec. 23 card and Sundays added to the mix on Dec. 26.
The track is closed on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, and Easter Sunday, April 17. Otherwise, Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.